Wednesday, December 29, 1999

KITV parent seeks fee
to remain on Oceanic

By Russ Lynch


The parent company of KITV-4 has told the owner of Oceanic Cable that Oceanic must pay some form of compensation if it wants to keep KITV's programs on its system.

However, executives say there is no immediate threat that KITV might disappear from the Oceanic system and KITV parent Hearst-Argyle Television Inc. today extended a deadline until Jan. 20 so negotiations could continue. Oceanic's program-listing channel has been carrying a notice for some weeks saying that it might have to drop KITV Jan. 1.

Mike Rosenberg, KITV general manager, said this morning that he expected the notice to change because Oceanic has been informed of the deadline extension.

"It is certainly not our intention to withhold our signal," Rosenberg said, but the parent company is one of several across the country that have opted to negotiate with the cable carriers about a fee.

Rosenberg said the Lifetime cable business on the mainland, in which New York-based Hearst-Argyle is a partner, is negotiating with Oceanic owner Time Warner Inc. on Hearst-Argyle's behalf.

Kit Beuret, a spokesman for Oceanic, said the situation arose because the laws allow providers of programs, such as KITV, to insist that cable companies pay them something for the programs and a few have chosen to do so.

"We are required by law to notify our customers 30 days in advance of any change. That's why you see the message. We'd just as soon not post it or upset our customers," because negotiations are ongoing, he said.

The TV companies have two choices under the cable regulations, Beuret said. They can opt for "must carry" status in which the cable company has to carry their programs and there is no compensation from either side.

The alternative is to waive the "must carry" option and go into negotiations for a "retransmission consent" agreement, in which the programming provider can insist on compensation. In this case, Hearst-Argyle has chosen the negotiation process.

Beuret said he knows of only a few cases where a deal wasn't worked out and where there were temporary problems and Oceanic believes its long-standing relationship with KITV will lead to a successful result.

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